Since Kirkuk was turned over to Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and paramilitary militias in October 2017, a total of 30 villages in the region have been evacuated; either because of the threat of Islamic State insurgents or anti-Kurdish sentiments. The mayor of Dibis, a territory within the Kirkuk region, Abdullah Nuradin told local media that,

There are more than 65 villages around Dibis, 30 of them are Kurdish, and the rest have mixed ethnicities of Kurds and Arabs. In all multi-ethnic villages, the Kurdish residents have evacuated, and in the 30 Kurdish villages, either all left or few villagers remained. Some villages have tried to build a local defense force.”

Another resident, Ismail Omar, verified Nuradin’s statement. He claimed that when the Iraqi military forces came to power within the disputed areas, he was forced to flee his home village because of the ensuing instability. Omar stated that, “When in 2003 we returned to our village, we were really happy and thought that we live the rest of our [life] there. But after October 16, military and civilian Arabs came and threatened us to evacuate our village.” Now Omar lives in the main city of Kirkuk with his family.

A member of the Gorran political party, also known as the Change Movement, Mulla Farman told local media that,

Arabization after the October 16 has started from the villages around Daquq and Tuz Khurmatu and it will include areas near Prde, Shwan, and Qarah Anjir. Those Arabs who attack the Kurdish villagers are those Shiites who were brought to Kirkuk during Saddam Hussein’s rule, and now they have the support of Hashd al-Shaabi and the federal army. They have even changed the Kurdish name of villages.”

The Iraqi Security Forces and Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary elements placed in charge of the region by the Iraqi government have repeatedly been accused of poor performance. Since their arrival in Kirkuk, a series of ISIS orchestrated ambushes against security checkpoints, and violence against villagers (often in the form of kidnappings) have occurred. This has only added to the tensions between the region’s Arabs and Kurds.

Featured image courtesy of the author.